31/Aug/2014 - Last News Update: 11:00

Bangor University appoints a non-Welsh speaker as chief

Category: Wales

Published: 11th Jun 2010 15:46:43

A non-Welsh speaker is to be Bangor University's new vice-chancellor despite calls for the post to reflect its Welsh speaking community.

Prof John Hughes, currently president of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, was described as "a proven leader" by the university's council.

Prof Hughes has undertaken to learn Welsh, the council added.

Language campaigners said the university "no longer deserved to be described as a Welsh institution."

Prof Hughes, who will succeed Professor Merfyn Jones, will be only the university's seventh vice-chancellor or principal in its 126-year history.

He will take up his post in the autumn.

A mathematician and theoretical physicist, he is a former dean and pro vice-chancellor (research), at the University of Ulster.

We're gutted that the university has carried on and appointed someone who can't speak Welsh.

Prof Hughes has been president of National University of Ireland (NUI) Maynooth since 2004, during which time, Bangor University said, he transformed its fortunes.

He raised its ranking from 10th to 4th in Ireland, tripling research income to 34m euros per year, and earning Maynooth the accolade of Sunday Times 'University of the Year' in Ireland in 2008.

He has a strong reputation for working closely with industry and in the commercialisation of research - a partnership which he forged with Intel has been widely acclaimed.

He has also built up an extensive network of international partnerships.

In a statement announcing his appointment Bangor University said Prof Hughes had "firmly committed" to working positively within the bilingual environment in which Bangor operates, and had undertaken to learn Welsh.

"In his current University in Maynooth he revitalised the use of Irish on campus, and academic meetings in Maynooth can now be conducted bilingually," said the university.

I am attracted by the history and culture of the University, and by its reputation for excellence in research and teaching.

Lord Davies of Abersoch, chair of Bangor University's Council, said: "Professor John Hughes is a proven leader who will bring invaluable experience and skill to Bangor at what is widely acknowledged to be a challenging time for higher education."

Professor Hughes said he was delighted by his appointment. He said he was attracted by the university's history and culture and by its reputation for excellence in research and teaching.

"I will be looking to develop these areas as well as engaging with a range of other issues," he said.

"I look forward too to working with the Welsh Assembly Government, the Higher Education Funding Council and colleagues in other Welsh universities on the key issues facing the sector in Wales, not least our contribution to economic prosperity and social justice."

Campaigners reacted with disappointment after Bangor University decided to recommend appointing a non-Welsh speaking head.

Welsh language pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg said the university still had the chance to place a legal duty on the successful candidate to learn Welsh.

In a statement it said in recent weeks students, staff and campaign groups across north Wales had asked university officials to reverse their decision not to make speaking or learning Welsh a legal condition for the next appointee.

Professor John Hughes is a proven leader who will bring invaluable experience and skill to Bangor

Rhys Llwyd, the vice-chair of the pressure group and a research student at Bangor University, said: "We're gutted that the university has carried on and appointed someone who can't speak Welsh.

"Bangor University no longer deserves to be described as a Welsh institution, given its attitude to the local community.

"It's essential that the new official can communicate properly in Welsh given the substantial number of Welsh speaking students, staff and local communities here."

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BBC News, 2010. Bangor University appoints a non-Welsh speaker as chief [Online] (Updated 11th Jun 2010)
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